The decision by HMRC to relax the rules on using red diesel for gritting and snow-clearing work on public roads seems to be paving the way for some useful business opportunities for farmers and contractors, too.
The exact rules are somewhat unclear but until now farmers could clear snow from roads on behalf of the local authority with a snowplough using red diesel. However, if they wanted to also undertake gritting, they had to use white diesel.
However an HMRC announcement in the middle of last month’s snowstorms that allowed farmers to carry out gritting with tractors running on red diesel has opened a potential business opportunity, says James Wilson from Yorkshire gritter manufacturer Vale Engineering.
He says that more than 100 farmers have contacted the company with a view to buying either a trailed or mounted gritter to do work for local authorities. The firm sold 10 machines to farmers from stock, with another 20 on order, but the stock of machines for this winter has now run out.
“It’s a lot cheaper for a local authority to pay a farmer £20-£40/hour to use his tractor, fuel and a trailed gritter to do the job rather than use a council-manned truck-based gritter that costs £100,000,” he says. “A lot of farmers store the grit on their farm, too.”
Vale Engineering says the models most in demand from farmers are a mounted 600kg capacity machine that costs £6000 and a 7t trailer model that costs £15,000. The company makes both belt and auger machines, but Mr Wilson says the auger types are proving to work better with the table salt by-product now being used by local authorities which tends to bridge.